You'll know already that I'm a bit of a fan of Jason Atherton. So having been to Maze and loved it, it wasn't ever going to be long before a trip to Maze Grill was called for.
Just to clear up any confusion. Yes, it's a separate restaurant. But yes, it's also housed in the same building as Maze. You go in by the same door as you would to go to Maze, but then you turn right instead of left. (Although you won't go too far wrong, 'cos if you go left, you'll end up in Maze. Which is hardly a short straw.)
And then a waiter came, bearing 5 not insubstantial slabs of meat.
"All for me?", I asked. "Already? How very kind."
(Well, actually, ok, I didn't. But I was tempted. Wouldn't you have been?)
It transpired that we were to have a lesson in HOW TO RECOGNISE DIFFERENT TYPES OF STEAK. Or, more precisely, the different beasts from whence they come. So, the roll call: Casterbridge grain fed, aged 21 days; Hereford grass fed, aged 25 days; Aberdeen Angus grass fed, aged 28 days; Creekstone prime USDA corn fed, aged 35 days; Wagyu '9th grade', Gold style.
Being UK born and bred, I'm familiar enough with the first 3. I wanted difference. Bring on the Wagyu, matey.
Oh, it's £120.00? Er, I'll, er, have the Creekstone, then, please. The Noo Yawk strip steak. (Again, not a cut we hear much of here, let alone see or eat.) Ta very much.
First, though, we had to choose something to start. I use the words 'had to' advisedly. I would have happily moved straight to the steak, but I'd had a reliable tip-off that the starters were worth the short delay. A quick debate, and we settled on seared octopus and salt and pepper squid.
OK. Let's go.
Beige. But good.
The seared octopus was good. Seared to that meaty, slightly charred taste, but not overcooked. Just what the menu said, to be honest. If you like octopus, you won't go far wrong with this.
The salt and pepper squid was (were?) terrific. Coated with a fantastic light, crispy, tempura-like batter, the squid was cooked beautifully. A little bite, but not remotely rubbery. Just a little something to chew on before it melted away in the mouth. As fresh as could be. Really, I could have eaten it all day.
But we had the steak coming. And I intended to be ready.
Hang on, though. Why all the fuss about a simple steak?
The fuss is because (a) Jason Atherton is a damn fine chef, and (b) Maze Grill houses what it is believed to be the UK's first and only broiler. That, my friends, is why going to Maze Grill was such a big deal. As a fan of Anthony Bourdain's high-octane, ascerbic Kitchen Confidential, I have long since wondered what the big deal was with these broilers. Did they really make such a difference? Could you not achieve the same effect with a good old-fashioned British grill? Apparently not.
So when Atherton bought his broiler and made it the centrepiece, the entire raison d'etre, of his new restaurant, you might forgive me for wanting to hot-foot it along there quicker than you can say 'Creekstone prime USDA, corn fed'. (Obviously you can do quite a few things quicker than it takes to say that, but you get my point.)
The moment arrived. I'll let the photos do the talking. For the moment.
I did my best.I'm not sure what to say at this point. It was simply as good a steak as I have ever had. Tender, juicy, sumptuously meaty, melty. Just wonderful. Cooked to absolute stunning perfection. I wanted it to go on forever. Sadly, it didn't. Life can be very cruel.
A shout-out and very honourable mention should also go to its accompaniments. The fries were a real surprise and joy. Unlike so many fries, these actually had real bite, were fluffy inside, and tasted fantastically potatoey. The horseradish cream was light, just the right side of creamy, and with a hint of fire. The mayo was a rich, gloopy, eggy dream. The roasted garlic bulb was a great add-on, of which I ate every single nutty clove.
Together, the whole lot was every inch the meal we'd hoped for, and then some. Any cow should be proud to die for an ending like this, for it really is as good as it gets.
But, you know, there's more. Just when you think it can't get any better.
I mean, would you have resisted:
Selection of British cheeses £8.50
Sorbets and ice creams £5.00
Cider apple trifle with financiers, cider granité £7.00
Chocolate praline delice, peanut and olive oil ice cream £7.00
Yoghurt cheesecake, yoghurt sorbet, blueberry compote £7.00
Cinnamon doughnut, café coupe, hot chocolate £7.00
Red fruit Eton mess, mascarpone ice cream £7.00
Bitter chocolate brownie, bitter chocolate ice cream £7.00 ??
Well? Would you?
The problem was choosing. Regular readers will know I like to go for things with a difference and/or things I wouldn't make at home. So, although anything with the word 'chocolate' in it draws me in like a pig to truffles, on this occasion I held out. And plumped (being the appropriate word by this stage) for the cider apple trifle instead. And The Other Diner opted for the cinnamon doughnuts. Good choices, both.
I do occasionally make trifle and, as a kid, was fed buckets of the stuff every summer. But a cider apple trifle? Definitely a twist on the theme. I was suitably intrigued as to what it would be like.
Luckily, I didn't have long to wait.
Golly. What a sexy way to finish a meal. First, it looked good, you know? Gently luminous. Gently come hither...
The granita was, as you might expect, meltingly cooling and cidery. No childhood trifle was ever topped by anything so daring. Underneath, some unctuous cow-fresh cream, a layer of soft vanilla custard, and then a just-set, saliva-inducing fruity apple jelly. Like I say, sexy. Truly gorgeous.
But we weren't actually finished yet. Nope, we needed one of these each:
And then, finally, we were through.
I mean, what else can I say? Go. Just go.